By Albert Akanbi
I MET an elderly retired military officer from Otukpo Benue State earlier in the week.
He told me point blank that “we have lost our country”, that the security situation, especially in Benue his home state, was deeper than communal clashes.
Powerful forces with age long agenda, in the guise of communal clashes and acts of terror, were wreaking havoc and furthering that agenda.
From the Maitasine carnage of the 1980s, to the crisis in Yola in 1984, Sokoto 1986, Gombe and so on, and in fact the countless ethnic and religious clashes in our history, in which many have been wasted for no reason, to Boko Haram and now Fulani Herdsmen, he said it has been the same agenda and one particular religion has stood out as the common denominator of attackers, and this religion was chosen for some reasons.
He drew my attention to a recent interview granted Channels TV by Pastor Ladi Thompson of Living Waters Unlimited Church where he said we are witnessing something that runs deeper than mere communal clashes or acts of terror and advised “…the government to do something about our fault lines –religion and ethnicity- and ensure that this dangerous religious elements and their ideology is stamped out oncs and for all…”
The old man said he often gets confused when adherents say theirs is a religion of peace, when in fact, according to him, its founder spent the better part of his adult life fighting wars. When his trusted companions went to war with themselves soon after his demise and countless of his followers throughout history, often went violent, killing people and burning buildings, sometimes for “reasons as trivial as drawing the cartoon of its founder”.
He then ask me how they can continue to maintain their insistence that this religion breeds peace loving people when warfare and violence appeared to be among the chief preoccupation of its founder, when killers like Boko Haram today can actually point to verses in its scriptures that seem to support or provide example for their actions.
How can armed men who believe that ‘…the only true religion permitted by God is…” theirs, and that non-believers are wrong doers who have no faith, and are actually ‘Dhimmi’, or sub-humans and infidels, show remorse when they take the life of such people, especially when they believe those people have wronged them i.e stolen or killed their cows? How can they care when they believe they have God’s blessings when taking such lives?
Like Reverend Thompson, the old man said these forces would not stop until either everything was within their power or Nigerian stopped them. He then illustrated his point with a Jewish ballad:
“There was this little sardine swimming off the shores of Elliat. He meets a shark and humbly says the normal greeting, shalom which means peace. To avoid a clash he offers to give up its tail, some fins, some scales, but it seemed all this availed nothing. Now, for a real and lasting peace, he surrenders everything to the shark. The shark nods in agreement, utters the word ‘peace’ , opens his mouth and swallows the sardine whole. That was the lasting peace…
“If, as they are told everything belongs to their God, then for lasting peace, like the shark, they must have everything and anything short of that is unacceptable”.
He said we were deluding ourselves to believe violence will ever go away if we don’t find a way to deal with these issues ideologically. If we don’t find a way to get into the minds of these killers and their potential recruits, and model what they believe towards love, empathy, respect for life and change their orientation of how they see ‘infidels’.
As someone from Benue State I understand the old man’s frustration, yet as I sat there listening to him, I became confused.
Recent sad news of Boko Haram’s attack on the Rann IDP camp in Kala Balge LGA, Borno State, filtered in. Recall that this same camp was victim of a ‘misfired’ bomb from the armed forces sometimes last year. Scores were reported killed.
On the twitter handle of Mr. Fani Kayode on 12th February, we saw a heart breaking picture which he said was sent to him by CAN, of the charred remains of a pregnant woman allegedly set alight by suspected Herdsmen.
Last week there was yet another round of violence in Kasuwan and Magani communities in Kaduna in which many houses were set ablaze and many killed.
Tuesday we woke up to news of armed herdsmen again who invaded two densely populated communities, Suwa and Burukutu in Adamawa State, killing over 20 and setting alight many buildings. In fact, I watched with horror on Channels Television how survivors related their stories, narrating how residents fled in all directions upon the invasion.
Then again we learnt of reports last Monday of the uncanny replication of what we saw in April 2014 when over 200 girls were abducted from Chibok, as armed men again raided Government College, Dapchi, Yobe State and carted away over 100 girls.
We were told that terrorism have been vanquished from the land only to recently learn that it’s not yet Eldorado. But anyone familiar with the news lately can confirm that Nigerians live in fear, especially in places like Benue, Nasarawa, Edo, Adamawa, Yobe and so on.
The pictures emanating from some of these places have been very horrifying. For example, we have seen pictures of knives run through the skull of 4-year-olds, seen gory images of dissected remains of pregnant women and the likes. The situation has reached a point where Senator Sani from Kaduna State on his twitter handle said Nigerians were no longer moved by news of horror. These have left many of us wondering if Satan himself has not moved his headquarters to Nigeria.
Personally, I find it surprising that anyone would chant “God is Great”, like one of the survivors of the Adamawa attacks related on Channels TV, when they want to attack, or are actually attacking.
I would expect a man who put a knife through the head of a 4-year-old and plucked out his eyes to feign remorse at least, not to immediately wash himself up and the next minute bow in ‘prayers’. Was the old man right when he said there is something in the code of the belief system of these killers that deadens their conscience, and erases the belief in the sacredness of life, so that they can go about with a sword on one hand and their religious book on the other hand?
These radicals have access to the over 15 million alimajiris children under the tutelage of clerics with no child care training, who are roaming unguided in the streets of northern Nigerian cities. This number is more than the population of three countries put together.
Tell me how a mind as fertile and young as those of these kids cannot be poisoned; how they cannot be easy target for terrorist recruitment, how they cannot turn cold blooded killers tomorrow.
With the ease with which the Dapchi girls were taken, I believe there is something our politicians are not telling us.
The fight against terror must be ideological as it is military. And we must begin to cater for our young, especially the large reservoir of the needy in the north.
Whether or not we are ready to take our country back, I don’t know, but I believe something drastic will eventually happen that will upturn all these evil and shock everyone.
I just hope it will be in my lifetime…